Muhyiddin’s colonialist mind

A COLONIALIST mindset is always linked with phrases such as "these people are not grateful", said intellectual Prof Emeritus Dr Benedict Anderson one week after April Fool's Day this year. Anderson was delivering a public lecture, Is Asian Nationalism Unique?, on 8 April 2009 at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Anderson is the author of Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, which topped lists of academic citations, even outnumbering Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. Those who have been following Indonesian politics would also know him as the scholar barred from entering Indonesia during President Suharto's era because of his treatment of materials relevant to the overthrow of President Sukarno.

What struck me was that Anderson's quip resonates with the kind of mentality we have seen again and again in the leadership of Malaysia. What's more striking is that four days after Anderson's insightful lecture, the new Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was quoted saying Chinese Malaysians appeared unappreciative of the ruling regime's efforts by supporting the opposition.

Muhyiddin was the Barisan Nasional (BN) leader tasked by new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to lead the coalition's machinery in the triple 7 April by-elections, in which the BN only won in Batang Ai.

Muhyiddin's remark, despite his subsequent backpedalling, essentially demonstrates the colonialist mindset that Anderson joked about, only Muhyiddin's mindset is embedded in a broader political ideology: ketuanan Melayu.

If one studies the factors ensuring the ruling regime's victories before 8 March 2008, one will notice the role of institutionalised brainwashing of citizens by the Umno leadership. Given the extent of such brainwashing — including the justifications for ketuanan Melayu — one wouldn't be too shocked reading such a familiar remark from Muhyiddin.

In his newly published book, Saya Pun Melayu, the "five-months-and-27-days-minister" Datuk Zaid Ibrahim says that many Malays did not realise the notion of ketuanan Melayu was not a constitutional provision.

On the contrary, it was former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's ideologue, Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, who started linking the ideology of ketuanan Melayu to his interpretation of the "social contract". It is to Abdullah's credit that an Umno-defined ketuanan Melayu was reinvented, turned into a constitutional right, and ceased being mere affirmative action defined by a limited timeframe.

Dr Mavis C Puthucheary, one of the authors of the book Sharing the Nation, has produced a good piece of research: Malaysia's "Social Contract": the Invention and Historical Evolution of an Idea. She points out that "social contract" in the Malaysian context was first used by Abdullah in 1986, in his own words, as follows:

"The political system of Malay dominance was born out of the sacrosanct social contract which preceded national independence ... The [New Economic Policy] must continue to sustain Malay dominance in the political system in line with the contract of 1957. Even after 1990 there must be mechanisms of preservation, protection and expansion in an evolving system."

But that's Abdullah, writing in 1986. What surprises me now is that within days, the same media outlets that reported Muhyiddin's colonialist message also introduced us to his boss's 1Malaysia concept.Wouldn't the Number One's vision directly contradict the Number Two's remark? Is 1Malaysia a euphemism to continue a neo-colonial illusion, à la Abdullah? Or is it an admission that for the past half century, what we actually had in this country was 2Malaysias — a product of the BN/Umno regime?


Reinterpreting “raja”

IN the wee hours of 9 March 2008, I waited until 3am before leaving my office, just to confirm that Perak had really got rid of its old regime. I also wanted to make sure that Malaysians would wake up embracing a new Malaysia where, joining Kelantan, four states would have gone through the political metamorphosis they had been longing for.

8 March did not only put an end to the old regime. It also signified the beginning of the end of an old political model while a new model was still being developed. To the 13 May generation, this was especially meaningful because of what they have been haunted with post-1969.

This time, bloody incidents á la 13 May did not take place. What a wonderful new Malaysia! It was as if the federal government had changed hands, although in effect it did not.

Today, one year after 8 March 2008, the same hope many of us felt has turned into mixed feelings in the midst of the political crisis in Perak.

Ruling options

Given the stalemate in Perak, many would say that the best option to uphold the country's constitutional monarchy is for all parties to keep the rulers above the political fray. In this regard, what Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah said prior to the Perak crisis is in line with public opinion:

"The ruler, as the head of state and country, needs to be neutral, nonpartisan and free of having personal interests to ensure justice for the people," he said in a speech. This speech was significant in that he gave it during the Silver Jubilee celebration of Sultan Azlan Shah's reign as the 34th Sultan of Perak, 3 Feb 2009.

Nevertheless, a significant series of events took place afterwards, involving the Perak palace, which was met with much public outcry. Today, it is to the interest of the Barisan Nasional (BN) regime that they continue manipulating the resultant public criticisms of the Perak sultan's decision.

For example, they have held rallies to frame the Perak constitutional crisis as a belligerent show of disrespect by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to an institution respected by Malay Malaysians. At the same time, the old regime chooses to ignore that this country's rulers represent an institution that takes care of not only Malay Malaysians but all Malaysians.

While this interpretation can be manipulated for political reasons, a progressive appreciation of the rulers' changing role will only benefit multiethnic Malaysia.
Shifting paradigm

That is why Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)'s concept of "ketuanan rakyat" should be seen as a systemic thought developed within the framework of the constitutional monarchy. It is rather different from the concept of "ketuanan Melayu" as envisaged by the old regime. The old regime is caught in the static paradigm of kerajaan, which is confined to taking care of only Malay Malaysians.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had this to say when responding to remarks made by BN Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman:

"Saya iktiraf raja itu raja Melayu tetapi raja Melayu itu berdaulat atas takhta pelindung rakyat Malaysia semuanya. Ini kita terima dan iktiraf baik dalam BN dan juga PR walaupun dalam kempen Umno tidak disebut begitu."

Anwar said this during a debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address on 19 Feb 2009 in Parliament. His words are worth quoting in their original form to show how important it is to put into perspective our discussions on the role of the rulers.

What is needed in a process of building a new Malaysia is not only regime change but also a paradigm shift. Without new governing discourses and practices, what has been called the "post-8 March phenomenon" will merely be "happenings after 8 March", without any significant change.

"Post-8 March" is not about working towards a change of federal government without preparing to get rid of the old paradigm. Rather, it is about leaving the old regime behind along with its old paradigm.

This is not about promoting a new Malaysia without a federal or state opposition. There is simply an ongoing need to deconstruct and reinterpret certain concepts that have been taken for granted for ages. The concept of "raja" in "kerajaan" is one of them. Be it the Perak political crisis or other post-8 March developments, what is needed is a shift in the concept of "kerajaan" from "raja for all Malay Malaysians" to "raja for all Malaysians". I'm hoping Raja Nazrin will agree.

My piggy bank after I bought petrol this morning...


Tarikh akhir ialah 2 Jun, bukan 1 Jun

Laporan The Star hari ini berkaitan dengan tarikh akhir untuk ahli Parlimen menghantar pertanyaan lisan/berjawab adalah tidak tepat. Laporan berita menyatakan tarikh akhir ialah 1 Jun 2008 sedangkan tarikh akhir yang tepat ialah 2 Jun 2008.

Meskipun perbezaannya cuma satu hari, jika tarikh akhir ialah 1 Jun 2008, ahli Parlimen yang belum menghantar pertanyaan lisan/berjawab akan gagal berbuat demikian kerana hari Ahad bukan hari bekerja.

Peraturan Mesyuarat Dewan Rakyat menetapkan tarikh akhir penghantaran pertanyaan lisan/berjawab sebagai 14 hari sebelum bermulanya mesyuarat Dewan Rakyat yang akan datang. Tetapi tempoh 14 hari ini hanya mengambil kira hari bekerja.

Setelah diberitahu tentang laporan The Star yang berkenaan pagi ini, saya telah menelefon Puan Roosme, Setiausaha Dewan Rakyat. Beliau sahkan bahawa laporan tersebut tidak tepat.


wujudkah sosial kontrak di Malaysia?

Baru-baru ini Ungku Abdul Aziz semasa bercakap selaku salah seorang panelis forum ulangtahun ke-25 Dasar Pandang Ke Timur, menegaskan bahawa kontrak sosial itu merupakan satu fantasi yang diwujudkan oleh ahli-ahli politik bergantung kepada kepentingan mereka.

Sementara itu, Mavis Puthucheary dalam eseinya bertajuk "Malaysia’s Social Contract: The Invention and Historical Evolution of an Idea", juga mempertikaikan konsep sosial kontrak.

Esei ini selain terkandung dalam bukunya "Sharing the Nation: Faith, Difference, Power and the State 50 Years After Merdeka", juga terkandung dalam majalah Off The Edge keluaran Mac iaitu semasa kita menyaksikan pilihan raya umum ke-12 yang mencatat rekod baru dalam sejarah Malaysia.


Ketuanan Melayu bukan milik UMNO

Undian Pembaca Harakah Daily yang berbunyi "Ketuanan Melayu bukan milik mutlak Umno dan sudah tidak relevan kepada Bangsa Melayu. Setuju atau Tidak?", mendapat jumlah pengundian sebanyak 10197 dalam tempoh 36 jam.

Yang menarik perhatian ialah, 86.5% daripada jumlah pengundian tersebut setuju bahawa Ketuanan Melayu bukan milik mutlak UMNO dan sudah tidak relevan kepada Bangsa Melayu.